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This is what democracy looks like
September 27, 2005 1:51 PM   Subscribe

This past Saturday was host to anti-war demonstrations in cities throughout the United States and even internationally. In Washington, DC a march, which was accompanied by a later benefit concert, drew over 100,000 people (estimates vary). Rallies in San Francisco, London and Los Angeles drew thousands more. Though there was some mainstream coverage, it was largely overshadowed by hurricane news. [more inside]
posted by nTeleKy (61 comments total)

 
As an attendee, I can say that even more than the massive turnout, it was inspirational to see the diversity in the groups that felt the need to drive, fly, or just walk out to the capitol to show their support. There were tons of video and standard cameras out, but I've only been able to find a modicum of multimedia so far. Even though I spent more than twice the time on the bus than on the ground, this, my first rally of any kind, was quite an energizing and hopeful experience - no matter what comes of it, at least we showed up to make our voice heard.

In addition to the aforementioned events, Sunday held host to courses on civil disobedience and activism, as well as a counter-protest pro-war rally with attendance soaring into the mid-hundreds. On Monday, a sit-in was held in front of the White House (yes, the one Cindy Sheehan (who I never want to ever see or hear about again, thank-you-very-much) was arrested at).

Truthout has some decent videos and Flickr, as always, provides:

LA: 1 2
San Francisco: 1 2
London: 1
Washington, D.C.: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

comic relief
posted by nTeleKy at 1:52 PM on September 27, 2005


In other news, dozens of pro-war supporters protested the idea of bringing the troops home.
posted by rzklkng at 2:07 PM on September 27, 2005


I attented too. It really was inspirational. Favorite sign: Republican For Impeachment.
posted by surferboy at 2:08 PM on September 27, 2005


Yes, we were certainly treated to another successful International ANSWER production.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:13 PM on September 27, 2005


So was the protest against Bush, racism, immigration policies, the poor treatment of North Korea, the continued American presence in Iraq, globalization or Israel?

And was it really organized by ANSWER and UPP? Yikes! I didn't realize there were 100,000 Trotskyists left.
posted by loquax at 2:15 PM on September 27, 2005


Though there was some mainstream coverage, it was largely overshadowed by hurricane news.

OK, so? I'm not saying that it was a bad thing, but really? Did you expect this event, one of many so far, smaller than others in the past, was going to get more press than Katrina and Rita? I didn't realize that Sheehan was potentially threatening the lives of thousands of people.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:15 PM on September 27, 2005


Thanks for the link pardonyou?, I'm very happy to see (and a little surprised) to see such a comment on DailyKos.
posted by loquax at 2:17 PM on September 27, 2005


My pictures of the event are here.

Me and my sign are here.
posted by odinsdream at 2:24 PM on September 27, 2005


I'm not shocked. The two groups supposedly had to commit in writing not to snipe at each other from the stage, meaning they weren't prepared not to take shots later. After-the-fact "it was good even though those assholes made it suck at a few points" is no surprise at all.
posted by phearlez at 2:27 PM on September 27, 2005


I attended the rally in San Francisco, and a feeling that has been nagging at me for some time coalesced into an opinion:

there are important, thorough arguments which can be made that connect the American war in Iraq to systemic processes, to class, to capital, -- and, by extension, to the host of other issues and agendas of emancipation which were so vocally on display.

However, this was not a 'bring out your pet issue of emancipation and argue tiresomely about the inevitability of massive change on a scale that there is no organizational capacity to implement without falling into dangerous anarchy and likely fascism before a new temporarary equilibrium establishes itself complete with new, sticky, not-entirely-just relationships of power and economy" rally. It was a "US Gov't, which exists, end the specific practice which it is doing through existing political mechanisms and which existing mechanisms are capable of stopping" rally.

I don't think it's possible, and i wouldn't try to inforce it, but i would be moved -- inspired, reenergized, motivated, awed -- by a day where all those people agreed to just go out and stand there in black in silence and shut up about what else they think.
posted by milkman at 2:28 PM on September 27, 2005


I should say that I have nothing but respect for those that act for what they believe in (even if I disagree), however this comment from DailyKos rings true:

And for that we need an accountability moment. They say a stupid friend is worse than a smart enemy. I couldn't agree more. And it should be clear to anyone with even the slightest political sensibilities that we have some really stupid friends. And I am not talking about ANSWER.

I am talking about those who thought it was a good idea to join in and help promote this event. Those who either did not bother to find out who they were getting into bed with, or those who knew and didn't care, should seriously rethink their judgement.


The list can probably be expanded to include more than just ANSWER too.
posted by loquax at 2:29 PM on September 27, 2005


just in case they haven't made the point often enough, loquax and co would like to remind those of you taking any satisfaction at all in having participated in the protests: "Your puny efforts just aren't good enough. You're not real civil disobedients--you're just pretend. Look at the other people you hang out with: Nothing but rabble, just like you. Nothing YOU do could ever be real or important. Face it: You're just tiny and therefore the little causes you cling to are trifling. We, on the other hand, are legion..."
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 2:46 PM on September 27, 2005


There were not 100,000 in D.C. Despite what the Parks Dept. says, there couldn't have been more than four thousand. The IMF protest was better attended and it was barely a blip.
posted by shockingbluamp at 2:47 PM on September 27, 2005


There were 100,000 in D.C.
posted by ericb at 2:51 PM on September 27, 2005


eye dog:

just in case they haven't made the point often enough, loquax and co would like to remind those of you taking any satisfaction at all in having participated in the protests:


which is the point, right? feeling self-satisfied?
Apparently.
posted by milkman at 2:52 PM on September 27, 2005


all-seeing eye dog, I think you may have a blind spot. At least I did not see that as what loquax was saying. Loquax was pointing out something that is, and will continue to be a problem with the left (which I happily consider my self a "far" member of) -- the left is not controlling and willing to be controlled like the right, so we churn out straw men by the hundreds. The "stupid friend" who allows the right to characterize points that can be supported by several astute arguments as the the thoughts of fools. We are ripe for mockery by association.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 2:55 PM on September 27, 2005


Anti-war rally in Washington D.C. on Saturday: 100,000 attend.

Pro-war rally in Washington D.C. on Sunday: 400 attend.

War Supporters Follow Anti-War Rallies
"Military families and others defending the war in Iraq took their turn Sunday to demonstrate on the National Mall, if in much smaller numbers, and counter the massive protest against the war a day earlier.

About 100 people had gathered before a stage set up on the eastern portion of the mall as the noon rally began....organizers were prepared for 20,000 people to attend the pro-military rally."
Someone called a rally and a mass of folks showed up.

Someone else called a rally and very few showed up.
posted by ericb at 2:55 PM on September 27, 2005


I will not march in anything ANSWER organizes again. Ever. They fuck up and dilute everything and cannot stay on message or keep to a plan... it's almost as if they are a Rovian front group. They have kept me away from what I would normally participate. And I think most average liberals are like me in this regard.
posted by tkchrist at 2:57 PM on September 27, 2005


If you're trying to insinuate that I'm feeling self-satisified in not being associated in any way with ANSWER, the UPP and the WPP, then yes, you're absolutely right. And if you care to read my comment, I expressed my respect for those with courage of conviction enough to protest for a cause they believe in. If you want to make the impact you hope for, perhaps I and others would take your cause more seriously if you didn't associate with the likes of those pro-war, anti-american, anti-semetic organizations. Granted the majority of protesters had/have no idea what those folks are about, but that's really no excuse.

Kingfisher: Thanks, but to be fair, it wasn't even my point, it was the poster from DailyKos (and many of the comments on that thread) that made it. I just agreed.

As for the "pro-war" numbers, it's really irrelevant. Why show up to protest for something that's happening anyways? People supporting the administration showed up last November and won, no need to take to the streets now.
posted by loquax at 3:06 PM on September 27, 2005


Liberals should recognize that the strategy of ANSWER / IAC / WWP isn't to stop this war (or any other war) but to create a mass movement under their Stalinist leadership.

They believe that the way to accomplish is to destroy the Democratic Party and bring about the short-term hegemony of the Republican Party. That turn of events is the only one in which they believe people will be sufficiently angry, and sufficiently deprived of more mainstream opposition options, to fall under their sway.

It's a classic Communist strategy, but I doubt that it would culminate the successful revolution to which they aspire. Indeed, I think the outcome would be more likely to resemble that of the Spanish Civil War -- Commies succeed in subverting the balance of the left and allowing the right to rise, but can't actually take out the right once they have the chance.
posted by MattD at 3:08 PM on September 27, 2005


Loquax: exactly right about the pro-war protests.
posted by MattD at 3:11 PM on September 27, 2005


Some people like to attend protests on weekends. Others like to tailgate and attend football games.

In the end, both are meaningless diversions from reality.
posted by b_thinky at 3:32 PM on September 27, 2005


What kind of protest would it take to convince you that there was something important going on, loquax? You are pleased that someone from dailyKos says "let's not let these bad apples spoil the bunch" but it still sounds like you assume they do spoil the bunch. It seems like you long for that one sign, that one thing that allows you to dismiss with smug superiority. Although I'd probably agree that many protests have many goofballs in them.

Not to Godwin-variant, but surely a MLKjr style protest would make you think twice. You can't dismiss all protests as being disconnected from voting because their goal is to raise awareness which influences voting, which influences legislation on off years... I think your dismissal sounds like glib intellectual laziness, like the typical righty triumphalist twaddle, proud of having a closed mind, exultant in not caring what the other side thinks. But perhaps you have good reasons to think the way you do.
posted by fleacircus at 3:37 PM on September 27, 2005


In the end, both are meaningless diversions from reality.
posted by b_thinky at 3:32 PM PST on September 27


Much like your posting.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:39 PM on September 27, 2005


My photos.
posted by If I Had An Anus at 3:39 PM on September 27, 2005


Actually on post-view I misunderstood one of loquax's points.. nevermind the second paragraph.
posted by fleacircus at 3:40 PM on September 27, 2005


Did I think news agencies should have neglected to report on the major hurricane heading once again for our shores? No; in fact, that's one of the reasons I did a post on this - because although it was important, it wasn't as important as another big fucking hurricane - hence you might have missed reports of it, so I put together a summary in case you did. That's all.

My experience was far different than that of the DailyKos reporter (and thank you for linking to that - it's good to hear different views [and since this is MeFi I should add that was not sarcasm]). Of course, that's likely because I was there and he was watching it on TV. Although I haven't seen the coverage and can't comment on how it came off, I can say that the speakers on stage were in no way presenting a coherent message besides "Let's end the war", let alone the message he feels was portrayed. I started off at the stage listening to speakers and although some of them were extreme (and/or stupid) in their views - sometimes even eliciting "boos" from the audience, they certainly all weren't like that ( e.g. George Gallaway or Cindy Sheehan for instance). People did talk about varied and random causes occasionally, but no one spoke for more than ~5 minutes at a time and then you'd have other issues being spoken of. Also, in direct conflict with his friend's report, when I left the speaking area about an hour after the march was supposed to start (and they did keep talking about delays) it was really. fucking. packed. It took over an hour to go the first block.

Furthermore, I haven't seen any evidence that the march was excessively tainted by ANSWER, or that "the mainstreaming of opposition to this war was dealt a severe blow yesterday". Please see some of the articles linked re: "diversity of groups". I haven't seen any article call this anything but "an anti-war" rally. On my bus there were ~75% 40+ year-old individuals, most of whom were definately not your typical "social activists". Most of the people I talked to were attending a rally for their first time. The demographic I saw at the march was extremely varied as well. A friend of mine that had a socialist sign was even called out by someone else that came from Florida to protest who had a conversation with them about how great capitalism is and how they shouldn't sell themselves to socialism. What I saw was a mainstream movement - religious groups, socialist groups, old women, crazy lefties, concerned Republicans, veterans (of Iraq and other wars), concerned mothers of soldiers - all together, in spite of their differences, to try to do what they could to stop the war.

Do I wish that more speakers with mainstream views were on the roster? Yeah. But they weren't, for whatever reason, and I couldn't change that, but I could come out and show my support for an end to the war in spite of that. What were demonstrators supposed to do? Kick out people who supported socialism? Riot and throw out the ANSWER people, who in spite of their alleged insanity helped put together this event - an event that was open to anyone? Miss another attempt at solidarity against the war because they didn't agree with the viewpoints of everyone there?

And as far as ANSWER, I must say that like probably 90% of the people there, I'm entirely not familiar with them, so would anyone like to provide some good criticism of them? The DailyKos article touches on some problems people have with them, but to me it just seems like they have some controversial viewpoints - I didn't see anything that struck me as really straight-up crazy as some people seem to regard them. Also, MattD, are you insane or are they just that sneaky? I attended an event co-hosted by them and heard nothing advocating anything near that agenda.

In the end, both are meaningless diversions from reality. Really? That's odd, because I could've sworn I drove over 28 hours in a cramped bus and stood in some sort of solidarity with a diverse group of around 100,000 people last weekend to try to do something about the fucked up shit going on in this country. I could've sworn that it inspired me to see all these people, with all their different causes, from all their different places gathered together trying to do something besides type snide messages during their lunch hour. It's a good thing that wasn't reality; let me get back to being depressed, hopeless, and ashamed to live in this country. Additionally I could've sworn I was really at a football game a few years back watching my brother play. Thankfully, it wasn't real; just a diversion from reality!? A diversion from the everyday stresses of your typical day, hell yes, but if that's your definition of reality, I feel sorry for you.
posted by nTeleKy at 3:44 PM on September 27, 2005


Hitch: Anti-War, My Foot
posted by homunculus at 3:58 PM on September 27, 2005


ANSWER sucks, Hitchens sucks, thread destroyed.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:07 PM on September 27, 2005


(But nTeleKy's post was good.)

I'm frustrated with the way things are going. The way that staunch defenders of the administration will lie in the face of photographic evidence. The way every nutball left and right feels the need to hijack the growing movement against this damn fool war to promote their goofy, irrational ideology. The anti-war movement should be about one thing: ending the war. Everything else can wait.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:18 PM on September 27, 2005


fleacircus: I don't know how to answer your first paragraph, and I'm glad it's not incumbent upon me to do so. This is a question for the democratic leadership, or the non-hardcore communist left leadership. ANSWER's essentially uncontested claim of leadership of the rally and march taints the entire cause. I wish it weren't so, honestly, and despite my Trotskyist joke. The American "left" or opposition needs to present a unified, rational, electable alternative for voters alienated by the current administration, and there are many of them, be they fiscal conservatives, conservative pacifists, religious pacifists, and so on. It's almost the opposite problem in Canada, where the "right" can't seem to get any traction against the ruling Liberal party, and is constantly hampered at every turn by the lunatic fringe associating themselves with mainstream, centre-right politics.

During the Vietnam war, the Republicans self-destructed, and only Jimmy Carter was around to pick up the pieces of a fractured, unfocused opposition. By that point, opposition to the war was moot, and there wasn't much left in the Democratic/left tank. After the debacle that was Watergate, it was either a miracle of strategy that allowed Reagan to defeat him a scant four years into what should have been a Democratic legacy, or total incompetence and incoherence on the part of Carter and the Democratic establishment. Don't forget that even Clinton's 8 years were likely only his because the two right-wing candidates, Perot and Bush/Dole split the vote. What I'm getting at is that the US has, for the 54 years up to 2008, leaned overwhelmingly towards the Republican party. For the Democrats, or any opposition to not only take power, but retain it and actually do something with it means that a coherent, workable and palatable alternative must be presented. Protests such as these show me a disorganized group of people opposed to just about everything, but proposing very little. Speaking for myself, I don't see anything different in what happened over the weekend than what happened in March of 2003, or at the various anti-globalization protests over the years. It's the same thing that many on metafilter say about "the right" (to make a rhetorical point). "I wish there was someone sane enough on the other side to rationally discuss the issues with". Instead, there's shrillness and ugliness on both sides with a major difference, one side has all the power, has had it for some time and shows no signs of giving it up.
posted by loquax at 4:35 PM on September 27, 2005


Is this really what democracy looks like or what freedom of speech and association looks like? They don't necessarily go hand in hand.

Since these groups (and more power to them) so far don't seem to be able to much affect policy or elections, they don't seem to be having much affect on American democracy.
posted by obfusciatrist at 4:48 PM on September 27, 2005


Since these groups (and more power to them) so far don't seem to be able to much affect policy or elections, they don't seem to be having much affect on American democracy.

democracy means more (or less than) elections.
posted by milkman at 5:02 PM on September 27, 2005


It means the people being able to affect the government. So far these protesters don't seem to be able to do much of that. Though I hope they do eventually have an impact.

I just don't see a lot of people gathering as necessarily a sign of democracy as the title suggests. Lots of governmental system produce large gatherings of protesters without having any democracy involved.
posted by obfusciatrist at 5:28 PM on September 27, 2005


What I'm getting at is that the US has, for the 54 years up to 2008, leaned overwhelmingly towards the Republican party.

If you're talking about presidents, this is incorrect unless Kennedy and Johnson were Republicans. It's also incorrect if you're talking about Congress. The Democratic Party controlled the Senate in 1955-1977, 1989-1995, and briefly in 2001-2002; the Democrats controlled the House of Representatives in 1955-1995.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:59 PM on September 27, 2005


Speaking for myself, I don't see anything different in what happened over the weekend than what happened in March of 2003, or at the various anti-globalization protests over the years. It's the same thing that many on metafilter say about "the right" (to make a rhetorical point)

Don't mistake this for "shrill", but... here's a simple question. Did you attend the protest this weekend? Did you attend any of the events you say it was similar to?

If not, can you accept that your opinion of the events is entirely flawed, as a matter of fact?
posted by odinsdream at 6:27 PM on September 27, 2005


I haven't seen any evidence that the march was excessively tainted by ANSWER

I agree, except for the small fact that ANSWER apparently got the permit for the march. Besides that, the atmosphere was inclusive and on-message. I ended up walking right in front of the Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the Gold Star Families. Hard to argue with their credentials.

I think what happened here is what has happened with previous protests -- ANSWER gets out in front with naming a day for a protest, gathers public support from people who don't know what they're about, then the mainstream organizations feel like they have no choice but to join in because ANSWER has already built up momentum and will dominate if other organizations do not step up to insulate their influence.

Another thing I noticed in DC was that all those people holding trashcans at the end for donations were not clearly identified -- some people could have been donating to ANSWER unknowingly. (We asked the one we were donating to, and he showed us a badge that he was with UFP -- who knows about the rest.)
posted by footnote at 6:31 PM on September 27, 2005


Also, was anyone else in DC annoyed by the street theater holding up the flow of the march? It's not your own private protest, people!
posted by footnote at 6:32 PM on September 27, 2005


kirkaracha - Kennedy was an aberration and just barely beat Nixon in 1960, Johnson was elected to carry out his mandate, such as it was, and was probably more of a Republican at heart anyways. You're right of course about the Senate and the House, but I did mostly mean Presidents. Even when the Democrats were in charge of both houses, I'm not sure the leadership was exactly the kind of politician that the majority here or at the march on the weekend would have approved of. I don't think you can deny, in any case, that it's been much more difficult and rare for Democrats to advance political agendas than Republicans since the time of FDR. My opinion only is that it's due to a fracturing of the message and a fundamental inability to present a viable alternative for specifically nominally Republican swing voters, just like the right in Canada. I'm sure it's more complicated and subtle than that, but protests such as they've been lately are a complete turn-off for these nominal Republicans, IMO, and hurt Democratic chances come election time. I'm not saying it's right, or it's good, however as I'm sure Richard Nixon or Karl Rove can tell you, image and spin is everything, and it's very easy to spin ANSWER sponsored rallies negatively. I'm not saying blame the people for protesting, if anything, blame Howard Dean for allowing this to happen on his watch. How is it that the Cindy Sheehan circus is doing the most (theoretically) for the anti-Bush cause? How is the WWP allowed to run a high-profile anti-war protest in Washington? Where are the Democrats? Where's Ted Kennedy? Diane Feinstein? Barack Obama? Hilary Clinton? I've seen far more of Bill lately than any of the others, and that's inexcusable with crucial mid-term elections coming up in a year.

odinsdream - I can certainly accept that my opinion on any subject is flawed, and it could be on this one as well. I wasn't there, I'm not American and don't get to Washington often, but I have read about the march and saw whatever reports were on the news, and read the post being discussed here. I was at the anti-war protests in Toronto in 2003, and the numerous anti-US and anti-globalization protests before and after in Ontario and Quebec, not because I agreed with the sentiment, but because I wanted to understand the rationale behind them and experience them first-hand. I also certainly didn't mean to imply that everyone protesting was being shrill. I've stated several times that I respect the personal conviction that protesting requires, even if I believe that it's misguided politically or counter-productive strategically.
posted by loquax at 6:37 PM on September 27, 2005


I ran into a big rally in Seattle this past weekend. Pretty powerful stuff. Someone had constructed a giant costume depicting an enshrouded Iraqi woman carrying her dead child. This trailed towards the end and put a big lump in my throat.

I didn't see too many mixed messages in the sea of signage, for what it's worth.
posted by blendor at 8:12 PM on September 27, 2005


We are ripe for mockery by association.

This may be a valid point, from a machievellian, real-politik point of view. But not from an egalitarian point of view (and whatever happened to the big-hearted, egalitarian, "...give us your tired, your poor, your tempest-tossed, yearning to breath free" strain of Democracy in America anyway? Did it die of mercury poisoning or something?)

I just don't like to see anyone being made to feel small for getting out and engaging in acts of free political expression--whether of dubious merit or not. It takes courage and conviction to declare your political allegiances in such a public way. Especially in the current political climate, when the risk of damage to one's personal interests as a consequence of holding the "wrong" political opinions is so palpable (and to think we used to think the left's version of political correctness was bad!).

I really resent the snide, looking-down-our-noses-at-half-formed-creatures we barely recognize as human tone of some of the previous comments here. Who cares who got the damn permits. When does the personal transformative power of political expression get factored into all these cynical calculations? Protest isn't just important for the spectators (some imaginary audience that needs to be swayed by the "ritual display"); it's actually more important for the protesters themselves, because the act of political expression can be an energizing and revitalizing Democratic act in its own right; at least it's some way to participate in Democracy beyond just pulling a lever once a year. What I see here is a consumer-oriented take on things: At the end of the day, it's all about how well others suceed in meeting your expectations and entertaining you; forget how good it makes them feel to participate without cynicism in something positive; forget how much proven potential for change there is in those sparks of free expression.

"Nothing new to see here; entertain me. What a tedious affair." Ah, get bent, the whole lot of you. Can't you just lighten up and be, like, human beings and just get excited when you see a big crowd of your fellow humans coming down the street?
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 8:15 PM on September 27, 2005


ANSWER's essentially uncontested claim of leadership of the rally and march taints the entire cause.

I don't see anything different in what happened over the weekend than what happened in March of 2003

Over 100,000 people turned out to show their opposition to the war in Iraq. I don't think you'll find a number anywhere near that for the events you mentioned. The only recent U.S. action comparable to September24 was the New York Republican National Covention which, guess what, was also organized and permitted by United for Peace and Justice/ANSWER. They are the people who got the shit done, so I don't know why you expect a challenge of their "claims of leadership"?

That said, nTeleKy's description of the protest matches exactly with my experience. It was clear that primarily we were there to oppose the war in Iraq. A close second was the anti-Bush sentiment. I was a little suprised at strongly anti-Bush feelings expressed themselves, at how close a second it was, but this energy came from us, the protesters, not from the speakers or organizers. All other issues, although present, were a very distant third.

The ANSWER logo was not prominent. Everyday people with homemade signs were. This is what has changed, is changing. 100,000+ people. I can't remember the number of times I've heard stories of thousands of people gathering to protest in other countries and thought to myself "Man, why can't Americans get the will to do that?" Well now we finally are.

As far as how the movement is portrayed by the media. I don't know what we can do about that. I don't think there is much we can do, other than speaking the truth and hoping for sanity.

I do know that all the newscasts I heard said pretty much the same thing: "Rita, Rita, Katrina, Rita...thousands of protesters gathered in Washington Saturday to call for an end to the war...Cindy Sheehan...small counter-protest...other cities...Rita, Rita...". There was no mention of Trotskyists. (I think the Daily Kos readership puts a little more emphasis on the CSPAN than the average American.) You were surprised, loquax, at the beginning of the thread to hear of ANSWER's involvement, yet you promptly moved on to dismiss the entire movement because of it. If you hadn't heard who organized the march before reading pardonyou?'s link, how could the entire cause be tainted?

And tkchrist, you are an idiot. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
posted by If I Had An Anus at 8:24 PM on September 27, 2005


i helped organize a mobilization of 100 from my small college town. about 120 who couldn't make it stood in solidarity with us at a rally downtown. did i think we could flood the white house and force the administration to listen to us this weekend? no.

not even the people who used their bodies to blockade the world bank /IMF meetings for four hours were able to do much more than slow things down.

did i think i'd have a hundred new participants, eager for more when they came home, eager to march and yell and sit-in for a living wage for campus workers or organize teach-ins and street theatre, work on counter-recruitment, travel to iraq, venezuela as emissaries, and bring speakers to campus? yes.

Unless it's focused on direct action, a mass mobilization is just a big party, a conference, a demonstration. it's the tip of the iceberg.

all of the guilt-ridden whiners dissing mass demonstrations will please preface their comments with what anti-war, global justice, or iraqi solidarity organization they belong to, and how they spent this weekend working to bring an end to the war. your comments are appreciated.
posted by eustatic at 9:01 PM on September 27, 2005


I'm somebody who was at the rally handing out socialist newspapers for a while (for Solidarity, a sort of pan-Trotskyist grouping), and I find the concern around ANSWER a little surprising. It's a front for a sect - the Party for Socialism and Liberation - that broke off of another sect - the Workers World Party - that can best be described as the neo-Stalinist wing of the Trotskyist movement. WWP split from the Socialist Workers Party because they supported the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956; PSL split from WWP for no apparent reason (it's mostly chalked up to internal politics among sect-watchers) a year or two ago. Their politics are identical. WWP used to control ANSWER, but now they control Troops Out Now Coalition. So it's technically wrong to say that WWP controls ANSWER.

The march was not mainly a function of ANSWER; it was a joint march between ANSWER and United For Peace & Justice. ANSWER goes for every position in the book, whether Palestinian solidarity (a touchy subject that UFPJ tends to avoid), Cuban solidarity, etc. It is rightly criticized by a lot of people for its sectarian tendencies and its top-down control by neo-Stalinist (the best word is probably Hal Draper's "Stalinoid") sects. UFPJ tends to suck up to the Democratic Party, and more or less derailed the antiwar movement last year as a favor to the Kerry campaign. (It's also got a large number of Communist Party members in its upper echelons, but the CP practices a more reform oriented version of Stalinism these days and has a hard line supporting the Democrats.) Both coalitions have tremendous problems, but activists work with them because they're what we've got. As a side note: I and others saw very few ANSWER signs, and a lot of UFPJ signs and not a few The World Can't Wait / Not In Our Name signs...the latter groups being fronts for the Maoist cult Revolutionary Communist Party.

Now...as to why ANSWER/PSL is effective at doing all this? It's basically what they do: their cadres are very effective at hounding the right people to get to the right place at the right time, making sure everything is taken care of, etc. To do that, they often give away the moon - which is why their list of demands is always a mile long and they have so many speakers. A small group of dedicated activists with the right connections can get a lot done, especially in a group that is as top-down as PSL or WWP.

There will pretty much always be Leninist groups at (or trying to get to) the head of any social movement. It's how Leninism works - the party has to be at the vanguard of the working class, out in the front leading the struggles, fighting to be the one that's the most active, etc. It only becomes a problem when, like ANSWER, the party is able to exercise its authority undemocratically over the movement.
posted by graymouser at 9:16 PM on September 27, 2005


I'm somebody who was at the rally handing out socialist newspapers for a while (for Solidarity, a sort of pan-Trotskyist grouping), and I find the concern around ANSWER a little surprising. It's a front for a sect - the Party for Socialism and Liberation - that broke off of another sect - the Workers World Party - that can best be described as the neo-Stalinist wing of the Trotskyist movement.

Yeah, geez, those don't sound like weird, fringe political organizations that could hurt the movement's image at all... Eh, whatever. Who cares. I still think it's always a good thing when people just get out there and actively express their political views--whether at some organized protest or over a lunch conversation with coworkers. Beats living in quiet desperation or picking stupid fights with each other.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 9:39 PM on September 27, 2005


Yeah, geez, those don't sound like weird, fringe political organizations that could hurt the movement's image at all... Eh, whatever. Who cares. I still think it's always a good thing when people just get out there and actively express their political views--whether at some organized protest or over a lunch conversation with coworkers. Beats living in quiet desperation or picking stupid fights with each other.

The thing is, these "weird, fringe political groups" are the ones that get out there and do the leg work for demonstrations. If you want a movement without Workers World or PSL (or Solidarity or any of the dozens of socialist and communist groups out there) at the head, you pretty much have to be willing to do what they do: dedicate a lot of time and effort into putting together rallies and demonstrations. Activism is all about who is being active.

I expressed my surprise at the ANSWER-hate because, well, I wasn't paying attention to whoever they had talking at the time, and saw little presence from the group. Certainly nothing I felt undermined the basic "Troops Out Now" demand of the rally. And I felt it worth getting a little into the mechanics of the far left, so people would better understand what's really going on out there.
posted by graymouser at 9:51 PM on September 27, 2005


I expressed my surprise at the ANSWER-hate because, well, I wasn't paying attention to whoever they had talking at the time, and saw little presence from the group. Certainly nothing I felt undermined the basic "Troops Out Now" demand of the rally.

Gotcha. I see your point now.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 10:33 PM on September 27, 2005


I could've sworn I drove over 28 hours in a cramped bus and stood in some sort of solidarity with a diverse group of around 100,000 people last weekend to try to do something about the fucked up shit going on in this country.

Oh, I thought you said you went to the protest march over the weekend? I didn't realize you actually did something to combat America's situation.

This is what has changed, is changing. 100,000+ people. I can't remember the number of times I've heard stories of thousands of people gathering to protest in other countries and thought to myself "Man, why can't Americans get the will to do that?" Well now we finally are.

What? What are you talking about? Americans have marched on the Mall since the end of the Civil War. This is not a recent phenomenon, it wasn't even the first march of the year, nor will it be the last. If you haven't seen Americans with protest signs, you haven't been paying attention.

Now, while I fully feel that it is every American's right to protest, in a case like this weekend, why? Did someone become enlightened by this protest? Did an opinion get changed? Was there something going on that people hadn't heard about that suddenly they now know about because of the really?

Other rallies and protests have shown one of two things, either they opened people's eyes to a problem or they showed the power of an opinion or group. This rally did neither. People know there is a war and that some people are against it. People in the 20's might not have realized the scope of the Klan's power until hundreds of thousands of them came to marches in Washington. The civil rights movement marches, particularly the DC march that culminated in the famous "I Have a Dream" speech, were performing both functions, awareness and demonstration of strength. The anti-war movement of the 60's basically laid siege to the functions of government and education in a show of power. The worker strikes of turn of the century showed their power over the economy.

This weekend's rally showed that the anti-war movement has the power to inconvenience DC residents.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:09 AM on September 28, 2005


ANSWER were the useful idiots who got the permits and organized the event. The real event was the march, and the people who attended. When the ANSWER people on the stage started getting too crazy, the audience up and started the march without them.

(By the way, the flickr set number 3 of the first post are mine)
posted by Happy Monkey at 8:12 AM on September 28, 2005


What? What are you talking about? Americans have marched on the Mall since the end of the Civil War.

I was referring to opposition to the Iraq war and Bush's policies. (That's Chimperor Bush, not the elder Bush...though, yeah, I attended some during his era too. They weren't nearly as big or electric. That's what I'm talking about, but feel free to take my comments out of context.)
posted by If I Had An Anus at 8:21 AM on September 28, 2005


I was referring to opposition to the Iraq war and Bush's policies.

OK, I'll take them in context then. This is not the first march against the war and certainly not the largest.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:39 AM on September 28, 2005


Well numbers are notoriously inaccurate. But I think if you compare the numbers here with the numbers for American protests on your link, you'll find September24 among the largest.

I personally feel the movement is growing. That was (part of) my point. Yes, I could easily be wrong, I probably am, but I prefer to be optimistic.
posted by If I Had An Anus at 9:03 AM on September 28, 2005


... but I have read about the march and saw whatever reports were on the news, and read the post being discussed here.

Loquax, I'm sure you're well intentioned, but I want to point out what I think is a pretty important fact. Having attended the D.C. protest (my first protest, actually), then having returned home and watched television and internet coverage, I have to say that there is an extreme disparity between the two. The news I read at home doesn't even come close to matching the reality of my experience at the actual event.

I understand that news is biased, but this is literally appalling to me. The protest, in my opinion, is being completely misrepresented in the media. I'd normally not be one to say so, because I understand the inherent problems with documenting something this large, but the effect is extremely pronounced for someone who actually attended the event.

So, while I'm not saying you should distrust all news coverage, I am saying you should take special care with this particular event, as I'm personally letting you know that the reality on the ground does not match that depicted in the news reports.
posted by odinsdream at 9:24 AM on September 28, 2005


Did someone become enlightened by this protest? Did an opinion get changed? Was there something going on that people hadn't heard about that suddenly they now know about because of the really?

Yes. I felt changed by seeing so many people in one geographic place, many of whom traveled a long way, voicing an opinion in concert, despite their many differences. Yes, there were several things that speakers brought up that I had not known about. I spoke with several individuals on the ground who told me what the climate was like in their locale, which I would not have otherwise known about.

People know there is a war and that some people are against it.

"some people" is quite a choice of words. The vast majority of people are against the war. Vast majority.
posted by odinsdream at 9:33 AM on September 28, 2005


So, while I'm not saying you should distrust all news coverage, I am saying you should take special care with this particular event, as I'm personally letting you know that the reality on the ground does not match that depicted in the news reports.

Unfortunately, every time I've read a news report about an event or subject I have personal experience with, the report gets it wrong to some extent. It's depressing, but it's hard to think of a viable alternative.
posted by Happy Monkey at 9:49 AM on September 28, 2005


It's almost the opposite problem in Canada, where the "right" can't seem to get any traction against the ruling Liberal party, and is constantly hampered at every turn by the lunatic fringe associating themselves with mainstream, centre-right politics.
Errr... the Liberal party is the mainstream centre-right political party.

posted by five fresh fish at 11:23 AM on September 28, 2005


FFF - Yeah, well, you know what I mean. They'd sure be far to the left of the Democrats in any case.
posted by loquax at 11:56 AM on September 28, 2005


Canada's Liberal party is left of the US Democrat party, yes. But so is Canada's right-wing Reeeefooooorm/Alliance/whateverthehellitistoday party.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:07 PM on September 28, 2005


The problem is nobody seems to know their left from their right anymore.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 12:31 PM on September 28, 2005


Problem is that the USA has one party: the right-wing party. It's just in two flavours: right-wing, and really right-wing.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:16 PM on September 28, 2005


Oh, I thought you said you went to the protest march over the weekend? I didn't realize you actually did something to combat America's situation.

Oh! Burn! Just how much smug self-satisfaction did you relish in after you came up with that zinger? Honestly, what else should I have been doing instead? It's easy to sit there and type snarky messages trashing other people's efforts, but I - and a good deal of other people - actually went out of my way and drove a long distance to try to demonstrate in a more poignant way that I disapprove of the war. And regardless of what you think, I know that I did do something to combat America's situation. Maybe that something was just provide one more body to demonstrate; maybe it was my own personal experience and what that meant to me - that for once I didn't actually feel ashamed to live in this country - for once I knew that as fucked as things may be, there's still a good number of people in this country that care a good deal about trying to fix them; or maybe I actually helped send some sort of message to the people in Washington. In any case, no snide comments by some random netizen are going to change the fact that at least to me and those I've spoken to it meant something positive - and I'm going to hazard a guess that we weren't the only ones.
posted by nTeleKy at 8:33 AM on September 29, 2005


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